Oxygen Masks, Servanthood & the Throne of Grace

The past week has been a difficult week for our family, dealing with health issues and the subsequent fatigue it brings.  You may be familiar with this cycle, as we all go through these moments in our lives when we’re not 100%.  And when one member of a family is ill, especially when it’s a parent, the whole family suffers.  Time together is lacking as new responsibilities emerge, meals are more difficult and often less healthy, and maintaining the house and its order seems impossible, all because one family member is down.  And the final straw, sleep can be interrupted, making the situation even harder to navigate and overcome.

For a little over a week, I found myself struggling to wake up in the morning due to the long nights and restless sleep.  When I did wake up, I felt that I had to get the day started immediately, getting myself ready and seeking to take care of the needs of my kids and my ailing wife.  I was juggling work and the kids and medications and doctor’s appointments and meals and bedtimes, and it was exhausting.  It’s moments like these I am fully aware and beyond appreciative of my wife’s tireless work to manage our home and lead our kids in school with excellence and grace.  She does a tremendous job, and I’m not sure how she gets it all done day after day, without complaining or seeming tired.  She is truly remarkable.

As I reflect on the past 10 days, I noticed a few areas of my life that have suffered during this time, and it would be good to take a quick look at each of these, as we will all go through valleys like this at some point.  As a dear friend recently reminded me, we can’t get from one mountaintop to another without going through a valley first.  So here are a few things I’ve learned this past week, and I hope they encourage you when you go through a valley.

  1. We need to put our oxygen mask on first.  It’s easy to convince ourselves that the needs of those around us are most important than our own needs.  We believe that it’s selfish to meet our own needs first, and we allow ourselves to suffer the consequences of that decision.  However, we must remember that if we aren’t taking care of ourselves, it will be even more difficult for us to take care of others.  In Deuteronomy 8:3, Moses says to the Israelites, And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.  We often forget that our greatest need in this life is not food or sleep or entertainment; our greatest need in this life is the Word of God, and yet that is the first thing I often set aside when challenging times come my way.  How about you?  
  2. We need to ask God to give us a servant’s heart every day.  During this challenging time in our family, it was easy to put on my servant’s hat and serve others, particularly my wife as she suffered through several difficult health situations.  However, when everything is going well, how easy is it to seek our own wants rather than seeking to serve others.  In his letter to the believers in Philippi, Paul wrote, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  When everything is going well, it’s easy to become selfish and care only for what we want.  Instead, let’s ask God to give us a servant’s heart to see the needs of those around us and the desire to meet them while not neglecting our most important need, God’s Word.
  3. We need to be willing to ask those around us to pray for us.  My wife has been dealing with health issues for seven weeks, but it wasn’t until last week that we reached out to our family and friends to share what has been going on and to ask them to pray for us.  For whatever reason, we often forget to include others in our struggles.  I’m not sure if it’s because we don’t want others to know what’s wrong in our lives, but it is so prevalent among believers. We have convinced ourselves that it is weakness to let others know that everything’s not fine.  But everything is not fine.  We live in a broken world, cursed by Adam’s sin, which means sometimes it will be us who must bear the brunt of the consequences of sin in our world.  And it’s when we invite the Church to come before the Throne of Grace that we see God work in mighty ways.  Certainly God can do whatever He wants whenever He wants, but He has invited us to join Him through prayer, and He promises to hear us.  What an invitation!  I must confess, the past week has been a struggle, but we have felt the power of our friends’ prayers through the comfort of the Holy Spirit.  Let’s not forget to invite those around us to join us in prayer in times of suffering.

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